Summary: God saves a people and secures their future through the work of Jesus.
The Christian faith is first and foremost about a person, which distinguishes it from other religions. Certainly the Bible teaches great moral truths, but Christianity is NOT, essentially, a new morality. Fantastic churches and ministries do wonderful works in the name of the Lord, but Christianity is NOT, fundamentally, a system of good works. True believers write learned discourses explaining both the world in which we live and how to live in this world, but Christianity is NOT, primarily, a philosophy of living fruitfully in a fallen world.
Jesus is the essence of the faithâ€”who he is and what he did. At Christmas people sometimes say, â€œJesus is the reason for the season.â€ That is true, but we could expand it by saying, â€œJesus is the reason for the religion.â€ The Apostle Paul summarized his ministry as: â€œwe preach Christ crucified.â€
All Biblical preaching proclaims the cross of Christ, and some passages make that more obvious by their focus on the person and work of Jesus. Philippians 2.5-11 is one of those, Paulâ€™s great meditation on Christ before time, Christ in time, and Christ beyond time.
[Read Philippians 2.5-11. Pray.]
Once upon a time, a young shepherd grew bored while watching his flock. So he yelled, â€œWolf! Wolf! A wolf is among the sheep!â€
The villagers nearby ran with shovels and spears and hoes and picksâ€”it was a near carnival to see them all rush to his aid, and the boy laughed at the sight. They scolded him for his behavior, but he still enjoyed the relief.
A few weeks passed and he again felt desperate for some excitement. So he cried, â€œWolf! Wolf! A wolf is among the sheep!â€ Again the villagers came running, which delighted the boy tremendously, but the villagers were not amused.
The next day, a real wolf appeared. The shepherd boy, greatly alarmed, shouted in terror: â€œWolf! Wolf! A wolf is among the sheep! Please, come and help me!â€
But no one paid heed to his cries; no one came running. The wolf killed the sheep.
Why did the villagers not respond to the boyâ€™s cry? [Because they did not believe him.]
Did they believe that a Wolf existed? [Yes.]
Did they believe a Wolf could be dangerous? [Yes.]
Did they believe that if a Wolf were among the sheep, the result would be disastrous? [Yes.]
What then did they not believe? [They not believe that the boy was telling the truth.]
How do you know that they did not believe the boy? I did not say that in the story, so how do you know that? [Because they did not come running.]
True belief produces changed behavior. If we are not changed, it would seem to be that our faith is deficient or non-existent. When we truly believe, we come running when God calls.
It makes me wonder if people think of God like the villagers thought of the wolf. We live in a religious countryâ€”polls tell us that 90% of the population believes there is a God. I am not certain, but I would guess many feel that God can be dangerous, and that if he were truly among us (like a wolf or lion), then they would certainly act differently. But hearts and minds seem little changed by the faith professed.